Guest blog by David Jolley: Opening the book on a forgotten hero

Claire Hilton has been a dedicated and effective, much respected and loved clinician and teacher. Recent years have seen her devoting more time to researching and cataloguing the development of services for older people with mental health problems. In doing this she has forged valued friendships with significant characters and their families, confirming respect and thanks for what has been done, often at considerable personal cost. The Witness seminar which she organised in Glasgow 2008 reassembled friends, colleagues and combatants who had made bricks with little straw to lay foundations which has become a world-wide movement. Those of us who attended will never forget the seminar, nor the fury which it reflected (see this link).

Now we are privileged to read her tribute to Barbara Robb – and hopefully to see this wonderful woman properly celebrated and recognised as a figure to stand alongside Marjorie Warren and Cicely Saunders as household names: heroes who have changed our thinking and brought heart to areas which had been neglected and generations of suffering experienced.

‘Improving Psychiatric Care for Older People’ is now available – published by Springer. It is possible to download it free here.

Buy the hardcopy to treasure, to read and to share with others. It tells the story of a talented woman whose original ambition was frustrated by injury. It tells of her conversion to become a therapist, and her links to great psychotherapists who were captivated by her charm. It tells of her sensitive commitment to friends and patients and her outrage at the disgraceful brutal regimes they were exposed to when they needed expert care and treatment. We learn of the reluctance of the establishment to believe her and other witnesses, but the bravery and persistence of Barbara Robb and key individuals in politics and medicine called a halt to all that and the world is a better place for it.

The truth would be told. It was told. It is here and needs to be read, loud and clear so that we can register a proper appreciation of what Barbara Robb did. Maybe we can draw on the spirit she showed to tackle our current sores.

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